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Customer Review

133 of 143 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exhilarating and moving; an epic sequel., 19 July 2014
This review is from: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes [Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Rupert Wyatt's 2011 reboot of the Planet of the Apes Franchise, 'Rise', is one of my favourite films of the last few years. A thrilling action film with an intelligent narrative and plenty of heart, it was an almost totally unexpected and very pleasant surprise. For 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes', director Matt Reeves continues the story where Wyatt left off, and Reeves has satisfyingly made a sequel of such impressive quality that is at least the equal of its predecessor and in many aspects surpasses it.

The story takes place a decade since Caesar led his fellow apes to begin a new life away from captivity in the forests beyond San Francisco. The group has expanded and thrived and constructed a sort of ape city among the trees. Here, Caesar has continued to command the loyalty of his fellow simians and remains chief, while he now also has a young family of his own to protect. Back in San Francisco, many years have now passed since a deadly virus born from the gaseous form of the drug ALZ-113 (referred to as 'Simian flu') has all but wiped out the human race, though a pocket of survivors exhibiting a genetic resistance remains in the city. The apes and humans have thus been segregated until a chance meeting with a small band of human explorers reunites them once more, bringing back some old memories for Caesar while igniting tensions between the two groups that threatens to boil over into all-out war and a battle for evolutionary superiority.

The film plays on the natural mistrust that the apes have of the humans, and vice versa. While much of the fun of 'Rise' was in watching Caesar's ascension to power as a Spartacus-style leader of his fellow down-trodden apes, 'Dawn' focuses on Caesar's struggle to maintain a fragile peace between his own kind and the race he was brought up amongst. Chief antagonist is Koba, Caesar's general and one time laboratory bonobo whose innate hatred of the human race threatens to destroy all that Caesar has battled to build. In another motion-capture acting tour de force, the outstanding Andy Serkis is again the subject for Caesar's movements and expressions and gives an astonishingly powerful performance that is full of presence, depth and charisma. Caesar has all the makings of a classic film character.

Human performances again mostly take a back seat to Caesar's ongoing struggles. Gary Oldman is a little underused as the embattled leader of a human fraction living within a guarded tower amongst the ruins of San Francisco, but Jason Clarke has plenty to do as Malcolm, the lead of a small group of engineers that take up a role in diplomacy and begin to form a strong bond with Caesar.

The exhilarating action scenes and set pieces are of a grander scale than in 'Rise' and with the use of some truly spectacular digital effects that are as realistic as any you will see, makes for an absorbing visual feast. But the finest achievements of the film lie in it's thoughtful, emotional core, that cleverly aligns our sympathies with both apes and humans and makes for a moving and thoroughly rewarding experience that is far removed from the one-dimensionality of today's brainless blockbusters. Never mind that 'Dawn' heads for a not entirely unpredictable conclusion, this is a quite beautiful film that has clearly been crafted with great care and intelligence. A fabulous achievement. 9.5/10.

Blu-ray review to follow.
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Showing 1-10 of 13 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 20 Jul 2014 21:36:28 BDT
Last edited by the author on 20 Jul 2014 21:38:21 BDT
Good review, thanks.

I thought this film was staggeringly good. In my relatively short life (31 years) I can count the amount of truly classic cinema going moments that I've experienced on one hand. I remember being amazed by the T-Rex in Steven Spielberg's classic 'Jurassic Park', wondering at the technological achievements of Pixar's 'Toy Story', being mesmerised by the 3D extravagance of last year's 'Gravity' and now witnessing the evolution of an entirely new species in 'Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes'.

I left the cinema yesterday in an afterglow of pure astonishment at what Matt Reeves and his crew have achieved here. If it wasn't such a grandiose statement I'd call this movie the modern blockbuster equivalent of Kubrick's masterwork '2001: A Space Odyssey'.

Time (and many more viewings) will determine whether it belongs in such vaulted company. But one thing's for sure: the memory of leaving that cinema screening with butterflies in my stomach and a sweat on my brow, all brought on by this astonishing movie, will live in my memory to my dying day.

And that is a rare thing indeed.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Jul 2014 21:48:46 BDT
Last edited by the author on 20 Jul 2014 21:49:23 BDT
Rob Payne says:
Thanks. And I couldn't agree more. I found the whole experience to be completely and utterly satisfying in every facet; as you said, a very rare thing indeed. For me it has all the ingredients of a classic piece of sci-fi.

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Jul 2014 23:18:06 BDT
Last edited by the author on 22 Jul 2014 23:23:21 BDT
I thought I'd chime in to both of your comments, that I too agree eye for eye with both of you. It does almost everything perfectly for what it is, which is why I believe it works. Such as giving us more than usual silences and visual motifs that speak and show without 'telling'. For visual strength, the short scene where Koba embraces a destitute Blue Eyes with the extravagant cacophonic chorus rising, like the fire in the scene, is very powerful. It shows how well-staged and large the drama created. That scene was one of the most vivid in memory for me and proves the sheer "presence, depth and charisma" Rob Payne "Rob P" mentions, that the movie has in everything it puts on screen; the same can be said for how the smallest scenes are lit, or the movement of the apes.

There is a good enough poetic level. There is a lot of thought, feeling, reflection and imagination, and hence meaning, in character; and in viewer, because many lines act as trigger for us to imagine, think and feel. I think the movie does this very well throughout. The script isn't over-laden, for example a lot is 'said' between Caesar and his son by just their exchanges and eyes, especially his sons. And the whole memory of Franco's character in Caesar is carried out throughout the film, insinuated at times by just moments of Caesar thinking, reflecting back or through lines that ask us to perhaps, do the same. In this sense, Dawn has great poignancy; it harks back to Franco's character physically only twice in a photo and the video clip, and I think that that is just perfect to be very touching. But personally, I couldn't help wonder about Franco's character, like how I felt compelled to wonder about what Caesar and many of the other apes were thinking behind their meaningful expressions. And I felt compelled to, because I felt the writers and director gave me opportunity to do so through the movies poignancy and emotive space.

This and everything that is left to our imagination, really creates a large space for imagination, thought, and - feeling - Edward Cummings said that "feeling is first" and it really feels like that is where it is in Dawn.

Then another thing that gives the great depth to the movie is the strong Shakespearean/ Greek theatre-play structure. Classic moral codes put to great use; set, developed and played out superbly with great catharsis, this effect being proof of this structures effectiveness and the Dawn's triumph.

I was really left with a vivid and touching memory like those classics Mr. H Chinaski mentioned, I too remember those ones. And the memory of this movie spoke of the great core human emotions and struggles. I too, left the cinema exhilarated and with butterflies. I saw it once in 2D and another in 3D the day after, and it astounded me almost as much (I find it worth mentioning it was a much smaller screen and cinema).

So much more to be discussed about this movie and I hope for an as good sequel at least, and can't wait for the Blu-ray release to watch this again.

Posted on 26 Jul 2014 19:35:24 BDT
What's the blu ray like

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Jul 2014 19:45:50 BDT
Rob Payne says:
I'll add a blu-ray review when the film is released.

Posted on 19 Nov 2014 18:13:33 GMT
i as a rule do not read lengthy accounts reviewing movies but this was a good review that kept me reading and interested,well done.

Posted on 29 Nov 2014 17:41:38 GMT
Excellent review. Thank you for taking the time to write it.

Posted on 1 Dec 2014 22:30:05 GMT
Jonathan says:
absolutely stunning film!!

Posted on 20 Dec 2014 02:31:47 GMT
Last edited by the author on 20 Dec 2014 02:48:27 GMT
Doug Forsyth says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Dec 2014 10:48:52 GMT
Rob Payne says:
What I've described above is merely the basic plot line; it contains little more information than can be garnered by watching the trailer for the film or reading the back of the DVD box. I'm always extremely careful not to give too much away. The review certainly doesn't contain any 'spoilers'.
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